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Rays’ Brent Honeywell excited but staying patient

Rays notes | After 3 years of injuries and surgeries, former top prospect eyes return. Also, a reliever lives in a camper.
Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell discussed his health and schedule during a Zoom media call Saturday from camp in Port Charlotte.
Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell discussed his health and schedule during a Zoom media call Saturday from camp in Port Charlotte. [ Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Feb. 20
Updated Feb. 20

Brent Honeywell isn’t concerned with interim milestones or a timetable to make his major-league debut.

What he knows is that after missing three years and undergoing four surgeries on his elbow, he feels good, he feels strong and, most importantly, he feels like a pitcher again.

“The best thing is kind of being considered so-called ‘normal,’” Honeywell, 25, said on a Zoom media call Saturday after the Rays’ third spring workout in Port Charlotte. “I’m excited. I’m healthy.”

Honeywell threw off a mound Friday for the first time since a December procedure to clean up thickened tissue and shave a bone spur restored his full range of motion, allowing him to pitch “and just do everyday stuff” like open doors with no issues.

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“Everything’s good,” he said. “This last (procedure) was a big-time help for me. … “Everything is so-called ‘on track,’ and we’re moving in the right direction.”

Honeywell was among the Rays’ top pitching prospects but hasn’t pitched in a game since September 2017. He tore an elbow ligament throwing his first live batting practice in the spring of 2018, resulting in Tommy John surgery. He later had a fractured bone in the elbow repaired and then underwent a nerve decompression to remove scar tissue from the area.

Now, he says he feels the best he has since the first surgery, and his stuff is “getting there,” evidenced by his work Friday. “I’m excited, really excited,” he said.

Honeywell’s tireless work got him into the player pool and onto the postseason taxi squad last year, throwing to hitters during workouts. He now looks ahead to the opportunity to make his long-awaited debut. With no setbacks, he will start pitching in exhibitions in late March.

“I’ve got to move one day a time,” Honeywell said. “It’s been sitting in front of me for three years. Honestly, I think about it every day.

“I know what kind of pitcher I am in the long run. I know how much I love this game and how much I love my teammates and stuff like that. So that carries me throughout the day more than looking forward to pitching in the major leagues — just being in the clubhouse with the guys.”

It’s really spring camp for Strickland

Reliever Hunter Strickland, a veteran of seven big-league seasons who signed a minor-league deal, has an interesting setup for his first Rays camp. He is living in a 28-foot trailer attached to his pickup truck, parked at an RV site near the stadium.

“Pretty simple lifestyle,” Strickland said, noting he’s got “all the essentials” — a chair, bed, propane grill outside and toys for his kids, who will join him with his wife next weekend. “Enjoying it,” he said. “No complaints on my end.”

Strickland, 32, said he opted for the camper to save money as the family is building a house and due to limited options in the Port Charlotte area.

Plus, he’s done it before, when with the Giants in 2016.

“My wife and I actually lived in a camper all year,” he said. “We didn’t have kids at that point. So it was a little bit easier.”


• Manager Kevin Cash said there were no updates on the COVID-19 protocol issues, which have kept pitchers Phoenix Sanders and Drew Strotman and coaches Paul Hoover, Michael Johns and Brady Williams from camp for unspecified reasons. Results of position player intake testing were expected late Saturday, with those who clear starting workouts Tuesday.

• Cash said lefty Shane McClanahan, who will be used as a starter after debuting last year in relief, dazzled in a Friday bullpen session with his fastball and curve.

• Reliever Nick Anderson made a wise decision to spend most of the offseason in St. Petersburg rather than his native Minnesota, “especially that 15 days of below zero weather I think they just had,” he said.